Improved Ball Movement, Shooting Lead Clemson to First ACC Win

Brad Senkiw

During their scouting of N.C. State, Clemson coach Brad Brownell and his staff picked up on the Wolfpack’s tendencies to over hedge on ball screens.

It led the Tigers to think they could use slip screens to get guys easier shots around the basket.

It worked, and it ignited an improved offensive performance in Clemson’s first ACC victory, an 81-70 win over N.C. State (10-4, 1-2 ACC) on Saturday at Littlejohn Coliseum.

“I just thought that we could get a couple layups throughout the game,” Brownell said. “You’ve got all kinds of other plays that you’ve got to make, but I thought it settled us down and gave us confidence. Then you’ve got to play with it.”

The Tigers (7-7, 1-3) did that just that, scoring 80 points for the first time since putting up 87 against Alabama A&M on Nov. 21. Clemson had not reached 70 during an eight-game stretch since that game.

It all came together in the fourth conference showdown. Five Tigers reached double figures in scoring, including Aamir Simms’ game-high 17 points.

The Tigers shot 46 percent from the field and made eight first-half 3-pointers.

“We had a couple of days of good practices,” said freshman guard Al-Amir Dawes, who 16 points and five rebounds. “We were well organized, as you can see. A lot of it was after practice we just got in the gym and worked on our individual games and it led to the win.”

They also struck gold from the free-throw line. Clemson came into the game ranked 188th with a 69.4 percentage from the charity stripe, but it nailed 26-of-31 from the line.

Simms made 8-of-9 from the free-throw line. Tevin Mack and Curran Scott made three each. Dawes, who was 9-of-10, that made clutch shots from there down the stretch.

“It’s a natural feeling making free throws,” Dawes said. “It’s not nerve wracking. I work on it every day. Put me at the line and I’ll make it.”

The Tigers the never trailed in the game and led by as many as 14 in the first half, when John Newman scored 10 of his 14 points to give his team an early spark.

Unlike during a loss earlier this week to Miami, Clemson held on all game and had answers when N.C. State made runs, thanks to its offense.

“We got a lot of better movement. There wasn’t as much standing around today,” said Scott, who made three 3-pointers and scored 14 points off the bench. “Guys were cutting and screening for each other so that really helped us not having so many (empty) possessions in a row. We didn’t really have a stretch where we were really scoring. We were able to keep it pretty consistent throughout so it was just a ball movement, player movement deal.”

Brownell was pleased with the slight adjustments offensively and how his team responded. Clemson has worked hard on creating more out of its motion offense the last three games, and while the Tigers came up short against Yale and Miami, the hard work paid off in their most quality win of the season.

“We played a very good game today,” Brownell said. “It was just satisfying because our kids had been working really hard the last couple of weeks.”

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